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Mississippi State University plans to return to full campus operations and in-person instruction in August 2020. To do so, our safe operations plan will promote healthy operations and mitigate some risks of COVID-19 infection and spread among our students and employees. At this stage of the pandemic, we are all aware of the importance of taking personal responsibility for our own health AND understanding how our actions affect the health of our community. The details of our plans for screening, testing, and contact tracing are outlined here.

Screening  

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Screening

Screenings are non-intrusive health checks on a regular, consistent basis. Screenings will include temperature checks and self-reported health questionnaires based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mississippi State Department of Health suggestions. 

Screening activities can be facilitated by the new Everbridge SAFETY CONNECTION platform discussed in more detail below along with temperature check-in stations such as those shown below which will be placed in locations across campus. 

All residential students will be required to complete a temperature screening every 24 hours along with the self-reported health questionnaire. Residential students will be required to use the Everbridge SAFETY CONNECTION platform. 

All non-residential students are strongly encouraged to complete a temperature screening and health questionnaire daily.

All employees will be required to conduct a self-screening daily prior to coming to work. This should include an “at home” temperature check and a review of potential symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and a new loss of taste or smell. The CDC offers a self-screening tool at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for employees who would rather use that than the Everbridge SAFETY CONNECTION platform.

If an employee has any of these symptoms or a fever of greater than 100.4 degrees, the employee should stay at home and may take EPSL (Emergency Paid Sick Leave), medical or personal leave unless the employee is able to telework and has a telework agreement on file. Guidance regarding this leave is available on the HRM website. 

Testing  

Testing

Testing for COVID-19 has been and will continue to be facilitated through the Longest Student Health Center. PCR nasal swab is currently the standard for diagnosing acute infections. It should be the first test considered and likely the most accurate at this time. Where screening indicates a spread of COVID-19, community testing may be required. The Longest Student Health Center can facilitate additional types of COVID-19 testing when medically necessary.

screen capture of everbridge safety connection

Contact Tracing/Exposure Notification

Having a reliable and secure mechanism for exposure tracking and notification is essential. The Everbridge SAFETY CONNECTION platform will provide MSU with an important tool that can aid in this process. The information available from this contact tracing technology will allow our health professionals to reach more people faster in the event of a confirmed exposure. Participation in this technology-facilitated exposure notification is voluntary but highly encouraged. The app is designed to protect individual user privacy. The app will alert participants if they have been in close contact with a person who has reported a positive COVID-19 test. 

Additionally, a team of health professionals within the LSHC will facilitate communication with persons who this technology indicates may be symptomatic and with those who are close contacts of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. This effort will be conducted in compliance with the Mississippi Department of Health and other federal and state guidance. 

Everbridge Platform  

Everbridge
SAFETY CONNECTION
Platform

Mississippi State University will use the Everbridge SAFETY CONNECTION platform to facilitate screening and contact tracing for students and employees.

First the Student/employee completes self-check Everbridge SAFETY CONNECTION. If no symptoms, no contact - proceed with activities. If self-check issues concerns - follow instructions to stay at home or contact medical professional. Medical Advice to evaluate symptoms or exposure leads to testing and possible quarantine or return to activities.

Temperature Testing Kiosks  

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example kiosk used for testing

Temperature Testing Kiosks

Temperature testing kiosks will be placed in locations around campus to enable our students and employees to easily take their temperature throughout the day in a touchless manner. These kiosks guide individuals on where to stand and reports their temperatures within seconds.

Medical Protocol  

Medical Protocol Based upon Testing, Reported Symptoms, and/or Exposure

Symptomatic Asymptomatic
Symptomatic Confirmed Positive Symptomatic Confirmed Negative Asymptomatic Confirmed Positive Asymptomatic Close Contacts of COVID-19 Positive Cases

Immediate isolation for a minimum of 10 days since symptoms began. You must be symptom free for at least the last 24 hours of the isolation. 

Active monitoring by University Health Services. 

Immediate isolation until at least 24 hours have passed since last symptoms or fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Immediate 10-day isolation from date of test and compliance with local public health quarantine orders.

Self-monitor for symptom development, check temperature (subjective or measured) twice daily.

Active monitoring by University Health Services. 

Immediate 14-day self-quarantine regardless of test results unless released earlier by University Health Services.

Self-monitor for symptom development, check temperature (subjective or measured) twice daily. 

*14-day quarantine exists for asymptomatic close contacts to include the mean incubation period for the infection. The minimum time before a test may be considered should be no less than 4 days after suspected exposure.

Ongoing Evaluation & Face Coverings  

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Ongoing Evaluation by Crisis Action Team

MSU’s Crisis Action Team will regularly monitor infection data for the campus and enable rapid decision making in the case of community spread of COVID-19. The team will maintain direct lines of communication with health care providers, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and local emergency management agencies as additional support is needed. Metrics will include screening data [number of persons participating in voluntary screening]; persons who are participating in required screening; number of positive cases; cluster/group infections by location. 

Face Coverings

Subject to change in guidance from medical professionals and the CDC, all faculty, staff, students, and visitors are required to wear face coverings inside campus buildings at all times. Preferred face coverings include surgical masks, N95 masks, and cloth masks. Face shields and neck gaiters have in some studies been shown to be less effective than face masks. Other studies have demonstrated that they do reduce transmission compared to no face covering. Since a great deal of variability in the data have been observed to this point, face shields and neck gaiters are not the preferred face covering. They are acceptable in a limited number of circumstances; e.g. instructors in class who need to be understood clearly, students who must use a face shield to articulate foreign language enunciation, individuals who struggle to breathe through a face mask. When a face shield or neck gaiter is worn, strict physical distancing of at least six feet must be observed at all times.

MSU will provide reusable and disposable face coverings to employees and students.

Face coverings are not required in individual residence hall rooms, public outdoor settings where physical distancing is possible, individual offices or workspaces if physical distance can be maintained from all other individuals, and dining facilities when eating.

Reasonable accommodations will be provided for persons who cannot wear a face covering due to medical conditions. Students should request these accommodations via the Office of Disability Support Services. Employees should request these accommodations via Human Resources Management.

Sanitization, Education, Travel  

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Current CDC data suggests that a cloth face covering may protect the wearer and prevent the spread of the virus to others. Visit CDC's DIY Cloth Face Coverings to see CDC guidelines on the use of face coverings.

Cleaning and Sanitization

All Campus Services cleaning staff have been trained on enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures. All classroom facilities will be deep cleaned in the overnight hours. High-touch areas including doorknobs, common areas, light switches, handrails, etc. will be cleaned frequently throughout the day. When positive cases arise, Environmental Health and Safety will determine where additional cleaning and disinfecting is required. 

Employees should clean and sanitize their personal workspace. Sanitizing spray and/or wipes have been made available to each department. Classrooms will be outfitted with additional cleaning supplies that can be used by students and/or faculty members who desire to clean their individual spaces before class periods. 

Signage and Education

Signage providing instructions on enhanced safety and health measures will be deployed across campus. Floor markings will be used where needed to indicate proper physical distancing and flow of traffic in dining facilities, residence halls, and other points of ingress and egress. Each building manager has been notified regarding the available signage and can order whatever signage is necessary for their particular building/space. 

A comprehensive health campaign aimed at students is under development and will be deployed this summer and into the fall semester. All first-year students will complete an online module related to COVID-19 spread reduction techniques. 

Individuals Returning from

TRAVEL, DOMESTIC OR INTERNATIONAL, PERSONAL or UNIVERSITY BUSINESS

There is ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus within the United States and in destinations throughout the world. Although a quarantine is not required in Mississippi at this time, you may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels (domestic and/or international). Regardless of where you traveled or what you did during your trip, take these actions to protect others from getting sick:

  • When around others, stay at least 6 feet from other people who are not from your household. It is important to do this everywhere, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are outside of your home.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Watch your health: Look for symptoms of COVID-19, and take your temperature if you feel sick.

Decision Triggers for Scale-back of Campus Activities

Based on guidance from medical professionals and scientific data/literature, the following guidance has been developed for MSU closure or partial closure plans:

Criteria considered in decisions will include:

  • Number of active positive cases in the student body
  • Number of active positive cases for university employees
  • Trajectory of positive cases over time
  • Number of outbreaks in clusters on campus
  • Capacity of healthcare system locally and statewide
  • Overwhelmed ability to conduct testing and contact tracing locally
  • Insufficient isolation and quarantine capacity
  • Executive orders from governor or mandate from IHL Board of Trustees
  • Changes in guidance from the CDC and Mississippi Department of Health

This is not an exhaustive list, and there is not one specific trigger or threshold for campus partial or complete closure.  All of the factors listed above will be considered to ensure decisions are made with as much forethought and planning as possible.

Possible Actions

Response will be tailored to the specific situation and will be as localized as appropriate.  Appropriate clusters will be identified (e.g. class, portion of residence hall) and relevant actions will be targeted to that cluster. Actions will be for a defined period of time appropriate to the situation. Following are examples of possible actions:

  • Temporarily shift an in-person class to online-only based on multiple positive cases in a short period
  • Temporarily close a portion of an on-campus group facility based on multiple positive cases in a short period
  • Temporarily close a building or portion of a building based on multiple positive cases in employees or students in a short period
  • Temporarily transition to all online-only learning, with all other functions remaining open
  • Cluster testing of specific groups